NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel sent a letter to Treasury Department Secretary Steve Mnuchin, HUD Secretary Ben Carson, and FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, calling on the agencies to release guidance providing the broadest possible flexibility for federal funds deployed in the CARES Act. Such flexibility is needed to meet the severe health and housing needs of individuals experiencing homelessness during the coronavirus pandemic. The letter, sent on behalf of NLIHC and its Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (over 850 local, state, and national organizations involved in disaster housing recovery work), specifically asks for guidance allowing the funds to be used in combination with existing federal assistance programs. Such use of funds can be barred by current federal prohibitions on combining funding from different sources to pay for the same activity or assistance. Read the letter at: https://bit.ly/2WmnPX9
If the agencies release flexible guidance that negates issues with combining funding sources, state and local governments would be able to utilize the full range of assistance in HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), as well as FEMA Public Assistance grants and Treasury-administered Coronavirus Relief Funds to move individuals who live in shelters, encampments, or other congregate settings into spaces that allow for social distancing. Given the severe public health risks that congregate living poses, moving individuals to non-congregate shelter can not only save the lives of vulnerable individuals, but also assist in slowing down the spread of COVID-19.
“Rigid adherence to typical protocol makes it difficult to respond to the diverse needs of communities,” wrote Yentel. “These exceptional times require exceptional measures to be taken in order to ensure the needs of the most marginalized and vulnerable people – including people experiencing homelessness – can be met quickly, effectively, and fully. For this reason, I urge you to issue guidance allowing state and local governments to layer funding from different federal programs without violating federal duplication of benefits standards.”